Cablegate: Terrorists Increase Activity in Advance Of

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O 161452Z OCT 09


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2034

Classified By: Ambassador Anne W. Patterson. Reasons 1.4 b and d.

1. (S) Summary: With the Pakistan military preparing to
launch an operation against major terrorist safe havens in
South Waziristan, Pakistan's terrorist/extremist groups have
dramatically increased their militant and propaganda
operations in an effort to undermine public support. On the
operational side, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) now
headed by an individual calling himself Hakeemullah Mehsud
appears to be cooperating both with elements of al-Qaeda and
with the Punjabi terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
(LJ). While this is not the first time that we have seen
cross-cooperation among these terrorist/extremist
organizations, the intensity of attacks -- five in a single
day on October 15 -- indicate that TTP has both increased its
cooperative outreach and its finances (as LJ does not work
for free).

2. (S) In addition, the recent attacks demonstrate that TTP
and its allies have the capacity to evolve and vary the style
of their attacks to exploit weaknesses in the Pakistani
security apparatus. The recent attacks involved both
vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in the
North West Frontier Province and smaller attacks against high
profile installations by armed individuals in security forces
uniforms that can more easily penetrate Pakistan security
cordons in other parts of the country. There is information
to suggest that women/men clad in burqas are now part of the
mix of attackers. TTP has been clear in its propaganda that
these attacks are both in direct retaliation for Pakistan
government support for American initiatives in countering
violent extremism and because of the military's upcoming
Waziristan operation. TTP has gone so far as to promise an
end to the attacks and its fighters participation in jihad
against India, if the Pakistani government changes its
foreign policy and establishes an "Islamic" state. Despite
these threats, the Pakistan military continues its
preparations for an offensive in South Waziristan against the
TTP and their tribal allies to be launched in the next few
weeks. End Summary.

3. (S) Beginning with the attack against the Askari Bank in
Peshawar on September 26, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
has resumed its terrorist attacks in Pakistan's settled areas
that had largely ceased following the death of Baitullah
Mehsud. TTP's new campaign coincides with Pakistan military
preparations for an operation in South Waziristan, including
increased air strikes in Mehsud territory and with the
consolidation of leadership power within TTP in the hands of
an individual referring to himself as Hakeemullah Mehsud.

4. (S) TTP and its al-Qaeda allies, who have been providing
advice and logistical assistance to the organization in
exchange for shelter with the Mehsud tribe in South
Waziristan, appear to have timed their renewed spate of
attacks and the accompanying propaganda blitz to undermine
public confidence in Pakistan security forces just as
preparations for the South Waziristan operation were
increasing. The terrorists appear to have read in on modern
theories of asymmetrical warfare, including the tenet that
public support will help determine the outcome of the
struggle between government and anti-government actors.
General Kayani told us repeatedly that strong public support
was a key issue in his decision to move into Swat.

5. (S) TTP is not, however, acting alone in carrying out the
recent attacks. Al-Qaeda advice, support, and possibly
financing have long been a critical element in TTP's ability
to carry-out spectacular attacks in Pakistan's settled areas.
In addition, TTP has allied on and off with various other
Taliban-inspired terrorist and criminal groups in Pakistan's
North West Frontier Province, including Mengal Bagh and the
Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM).

6. (S) In the recent attacks in the Pakistani Punjab, TTP
appears to have, as they did in 2008, hired the services of
Punjab-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ). LJ,
which began as a violent off-shot of Deobandi sectarian
extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) in the 1990s,
has steadily increased its target set from strictly Shias, a
minority in Pakistan, to any group which does not share its
strict, militant interpretation of Islam, including the
Pakistan government and western interests. Since 2001, LJ
has become essentially a "guns for hire" terrorist
organization, prepared to carry out attacks on any
non-Deobandi group in exchange for sizable cash payments.
The latest attacks are also tied directly to Ilyas Kashmiri,
who is affiliated with the anti-India terrorist group
Harakat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI). HUJI, along with other
anti-India groups including Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and
Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), have increasingly shifted their focus
to include Pakistan government and western targets in
Pakistan and India. They are also actively collaborating
with Taliban groups, including TTP, sectarian extremist
groups such as LJ, and al-Qaeda.

7. (S) The recent attacks demonstrate that TTP and its allied
groups are capable of adjusting their tactics and practices
to counter Pakistan government security measures. TTP has
continued to use vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices
(VBIED) against police and government installations in NWFP
-- where counter-measures are comparatively weaker. In
Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and Lahore, TTP has started deploying
single suicide bombers or small teams of suicide bombers and
armed gunmen to target high-profile installations. These
individual suicide bombers or small teams have begun wearing
the uniforms of Pakistani security personnel, which are
easily available for purchase in any market and allow them to
bypass security screening checkpoints unchallenged. There is
information that women/men in burqas have also been part of
the mix of attackers. While casualty tolls in these attacks
are lower than in the VBIED explosions, their ability to
bypass security and penetrate into the General Headquarters
of the Pakistan Army, international organizations, and the
headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency could have a
devastating impact on public and security force morale.

8. (S) It is also possible, however, that the terrorists have
not accurately assessed all quarters of Pakistani public
opinion. Most Punjabis were remarkably nonchalant about
violence in the tribal areas prior to the March attack on the
Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Consulate Lahore contacts
have fallen into two camps in reaction to the October 15 (and
earlier but also recent) attacks in the Punjab. One camp
does, indeed, bemoan the government's incapacity and speaks
pessimistically about the GOP's capacity to rally. Another
camp speaks passionately of the importance of the GOP's
civilian and military components joining to defeat the
terrorists, and restore normalcy to Pakistan, with some pride
in the GOP's accomplishments to date. The attacks seem to
have further invigorated this camp. Both camps insist that
the violent extremists represent neither Islam nor Pakistan.
Terrorist "messaging" is not having the desired impact in
Lahore. Even the anti-U.S., nationalist daily "The Nation"
spoke highly of the "martyred" security forces who lost their
lives in the October 15 attacks.

9. (S) In addition to the increase in attacks, TTP has
equally launched a propaganda effort to break public support
for the impending operation in South Waziristan. The thrust
of this propaganda effort has been that the attacks are in
retaliation for the Pakistan Army/government's policy of
supporting America's "war against Islam" in Pakistan and
Afghanistan. TTP has stressed that any action in Waziristan
is being carried out on instructions from the United States.

10. (S) TTP spokespeople have promised that the campaign of
attacks will end, if the Pakistan government abandons its
support of the United States policy. In one recent
statement, TTP even offered to send its jihadi forces to
Pakistan's eastern border with India if the Pakistan
government turned Pakistan into "an Islamic state." Such
propaganda messages are clearly designed to damage the army
and government's image in the general public and decrease
public and political support for what may be a prolonged
military operation in South Waziristan.

11. (S) Despite these attacks, we continue to receive solid
evidence that the Pakistan military is preparing to move
forward with some kind of operation in South Waziristan. For
the last several days, we have witnessed renewed air strikes
in the region designed to prepare the ground to facilitate
offensive maneuver. In addition, we have seen continued
movements of troops and supplies to tactical assembly areas
in South Waziristan and the positioning of Special Services
Group (SSG) personnel for reconnaissance activities, which
appear imminent. On October 16, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq
Pervaiz Kayani made an unscheduled call to ISAF Commander
Gen. McChrystal to advise that operations in South Waziristan
were imminent and to request that ISAF forces in Afghanistan
coordinate with the Pakistani military to prevent the escape
of militants across the border. Mission believes that the
start of major ground combat operations may still be several
days or more away as SSG reconnaissance and additional air
strikes are likely prior to the commencement of decisive

12. (S) Despite the positive indications that the Pakistan
Army intends to move into South Waziristan, post remains
uncertain as to the intended extent of the operation. There
is no question that the Pakistan Army intends to "punish" the
Mehsud tribe for its protection of TTP and to dismantle as
much TTP infrastructure in South Waziristan as possible. It
is also likely that the Pakistan Army will move against
al-Qaeda elements that are inter-mingled with the Mehsud
tribe and supporting TTP. It remains to be seen, however,
that given the short time frame before a harsh winter sets
into the Waziristans that the Pakistan Army is contemplating
a full-scale clearance operation. There is no indication
that the military intends to go after Commander Nazir,
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Haqqani network, or their allied
tribes -- all located in North Waziristan -- as part of this
operation. These elements that focus almost exclusively on
cross-border attacks into Afghanistan are not a high priority
for the Pakistan military, and, in the case of the Haqqanis,
it is not clear the Pakistani military could achieve a
decisive victory even if it wanted to do so.


© Scoop Media

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